(last updated July 2019)
Broadly, the caravan sector divides into holiday sites and residential sites.
Holiday caravan sites
Caravanning and camping are very popular activities and demand for static caravans which are used as holiday homes by their owners steadily increased throughout the opening years of the 2000s. During this period there was also a marked increase in the number of touring caravans produced as well as the number of motorhomes registered as the popularity of caravanning holidays continued to increase.
Although the number of new caravans purchased fell during the economic downturn of the late 2000s/early 2010s - and this would have had a negative impact on the sites which rely heavily on the commission generated from the sales - the holiday park sector generally benefited during this period as bookings significantly increased due to the number of people choosing to holiday as cheaply as possible in the UK rather than taking a foreign holiday.
Despite consistently poor summer weather during the closing years of the 2000s and early 2010s, as well as a small increase in the number of overseas holidays taken in 2013 and 2014 and much larger rises in 2015 and 2016 it appears that - for now at least - the domestic holiday or short break has become firmly established with many UK holidaymakers as a low-cost alternative to going abroad or a trip that's taken in addition to the annual foreign holiday. This popularity has also helped to boost sales of touring and static caravans and motorhomes in recent years.
Even though the fall in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote made foreign holidays more expensive, the number of holidays taken abroad increased in 2017. At the same time, however, the number of holidays taken in the UK also increased. This bears out the findings on consumer expenditure which show that cash strapped consumers are still prepared to spend on entertainment and experiences, despite falling confidence in the economy. The weak pound has had the benefit of increasing the number of visitors from abroad as holidays here became more attractive, with record number of foreign tourists visiting the UK in 2017.
Residential park homes
According to government research carried out in the early 2000s, there are around 70,000 park home households in the UK and just under 70% of park home residents are elderly. Many park home residents are on low incomes and have funded the purchase of their park home by selling a previous bricks and mortar property. Park homes are also popular because they are compact, easy to maintain and relatively cheap to run.
Park home production levels were very badly affected by the economic downturn and the slump in the housing market in 2009, with numbers falling by around 35% compared with the previous year. Since then though, production has recovered and is likely to continue to do so in the short term. The government has recently reformed the park home licensing system and introduced a new law in 2013 that gives mobile home owners more protection. The Government is conducting a two-part review of residential park homes legislation and their response to the call for evidence is expected to be published in Autumn 2018.
Many site operators nowadays try not to have all their eggs in one basket - their sites include residential park homes, privately owned static holiday caravans as well as an area devoted to touring caravans, motor homes and tents. Many also offer a range of services to attract visitors (including those not staying on-site), such as bars, restaurants, takeaways, swimming pools, sports equipment hire and so on.
Keep up to date with developments
The interests of the caravan site and residential park home sectors are represented by a number of organisations including:
- The British Holiday and Home Parks Association
- The National Caravan Council
- The National Park Homes Council (a division of the National Caravan Council)
The UK tourism industry website, Visit Britain, contains a wealth of tourist industry information
The Gov.uk website includes publications and guidance for the park home sector.